Mohonk Preserve, NY November 1st-2nd, 2013
This is a guest post by Micah Salazar, Territory Sales Manager for Head Rush Technologies, maker of the TRUBLUE Auto Belay
The climbing community has seen a shift in how new climbers are introduced to outdoor climbing. In the past, if you wanted to climb outdoors, you would need to find a mentor and slowly hone your skills under careful tutelage. It is theorized that the proliferation of climbing gyms have garnered a new breed of outdoor climbers. These climbers are coming out of the gyms and climbing at a high level, yet they do not have the safety skills to mitigate all the risks of climbing outside.
I was delighted to represent Trublue Auto Belays at the Access Fund’s Educate For Access Summit at the Mohonk Preserve in New York. Auto belays have become a useful tool for climbing walls and as climbers and the manufacturers of these devices, we support safe climbing practices. Others represented at the summit were land managers, environmental educators, climbing wall operators, and local climbers organizations. We had two full days of discussions about gym to crag safety and minimizing impact.
We learned about threats to climbing access including: soil/vegetation/wildlife/water impact, social impacts such as crowding/noise/pets/litter/illegal activity, threats to cultural sites, and fixed gear. We got to hear from land managers themselves that one of the biggest concerns to them is the creation of “social trails“.
We also learned some climbing statistics and determined who the audience is that we need to reach. Discussions were had about how best to reach them, and great ideas were shared. We determined who in our industry has the biggest reach and how we would like them to help our efforts. It seems as though youth organizations, clubs, climbing teams, and colleges would take priority in education efforts. We also learned about different educational styles in order to carry out our efforts. The Access Fund will use these shared ideas to implement programs and education to overcome access challenges.
Some specific ideas I had:
- I would like to see the dominant climbing websites offer gym to crag sections on their websites that are on the front page and easy to navigate. They have a huge audience and would be a great central place to post “Climb Smart” videos and other educational resources.
- I would like to see retailers involved. Besides climbing gyms, every outdoor climber needs to make their way to the gear store. The retailers could point out existing resources as well as bolster their own.
- I would like to see climbing video producers run PSAs in front of their videos. Climbing videos get lots of play online. There are already great short PSA videos produced and being produced by the CWA, Access Fund, AAC, AMGA, PCGI and others. It would be minimal cost to the film maker and it would reach a wide audience.
- I would like to see the Climbing Wall Association develop a value proposition to gym owners about why encouraging safe outdoor climbing is in their best interest.
- Climbing organizations and companies should use data in the future to specifically determine the number and nature of accidents that are now only attributed to new outside climbers. Accidents in North American Mountaineering, web forums, and near miss reports would be good resources.
- I would like to see more climbers empowered to take part in this conversation. I don’t want our efforts perceived as elitist. All of these organizations are made up of climbers.
- Based on responses from this particular group, it seems appropriate that The Access Fund be a central communication point to disseminate information to climbers about outdoor safety and preserving access.
It was brought up that climbers can use gear in an inappropriate manner and that the gear manufacturers do not do enough to educate users. I am proud to say that TRUBLUE Auto Belays offers a plethora of educational videos for both climbing wall operators and climbing wall users. This information is provided clearly on our website, social media, and YouTube channel. Further, we have signs, posters, and trainings available to climbing gyms. I am open to ideas on how to better share this info and get the word out. We are climbers and are committed to safety and preserving climbing access. Please feel free to reply with your ideas on how climbing organizations, land managers and industry can accomplish our shared goals. I look forward to seeing you at a gym or crag in the future!